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Title: California threatens Weedmaps over promotion of illegal cannabis shops
Source: The Orange County Register
URL Source: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/ ... face-criminal-civil-penalties/
Published: Mar 28, 2018
Author: Brooke Staggs
Post Date: 2018-03-28 17:10:03 by misterwhite
Keywords: None
Views: 663
Comments: 13

California’s cannabis czar issued a cease and desist order to Weedmaps, directing the Irvine internet company that maps marijuana dispensaries to immediately stop promoting businesses that don’t have state licenses.

“You are aiding and abetting in violation of state cannabis laws,” states the letter from Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

If the company doesn’t immediately drop advertisements for unlicensed businesses, Ajax said Weedmaps could face criminal and civil penalties, including civil fines for each illegal ad.

The warning is the only cease and desist letter sent by the state to an advertising company, according to bureau spokesman Alex Traverso. But it’s one of more than 900 such letters sent by his agency to unlicensed marijuana businesses since recreational weed sales were allowed to start and licensing requirements kicked in Jan. 1.

Traverso said many of those 900-plus black market shops were discovered on Weedmaps.

Tustin resident Justin Hartfield founded Weedmaps in 2007 with company CEO Doug Francis. The site and its app help visitors find dispensaries and browse their menus, with shops rated much like other businesses are rated on Yelp.

Weedmaps has grown into an international juggernaut, with offices from Denver to Berlin. But much of that business has been built on ad revenue from unlicensed dispensaries. For example, on Wednesday, the app included 20 ads for marijuana dispensaries in Anaheim, even though all cannabis businesses are banned in that city.

Weedmaps didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. But during a February interview, company president Christopher Beals remained defiant on the issue of accepting ads from black market shops.

“The thing is, at the end of the day, we’re an information platform,” Beals said. “We’re showing the same information that Google and Yelp and Craigslist and 30 other websites are showing.”

Beals said he believes it’s up to states and cities to put in a solid regulatory framework and to permit enough licensed marijuana businesses to meet demand. That’s the only way to control the illegal market, he said.

“To sort of say, ‘Let’s pretend an illegal market doesn’t exist’ or that people can’t just type ‘dispensary’ into Google and find this information… isn’t really realistic.”

A Weedmaps competitor, Leafly.com – which also maps dispensaries along with ranking strains and offering other cannabis-related information – announced it was ditching ads from unlicensed shops as of March 1.

“The California state government has made clear that only licensed retailers and delivery services may advertise via technology platforms,” stated a Feb. 7 press release from Leafly announcing the decision.

Ajax sent Weedmaps the cease and desist letter on Feb. 16. Industry news site Marijuana Business Daily first reported the news Wednesday.

The letter explains that, under Senate Bill 94, any ads for marijuana retailers must include a California license number showing they’re permitted by state and local authorities. The number also ensures that, when regulations are fully in place later this year, all cannabis sold by that retailer has been tested for safety, properly labeled and more.

“This differs in no way than requiring a contractor to list their state contractor’s license number or a real estate broker to list their license number,” said Aaron Herzberg, a cannabis industry attorney who’s part owner of two licensed shops in Santa Ana.

Herzberg pushed to have the advertising language written into state law after personally seeing how difficult it was for legal shops to compete with the gray market while companies like Weedmaps made no attempt to help shoppers distinguish between the two.

“We’re starting to see more and more licensed cannabis businesses that invest millions of dollars and go through the process to do things the right way and to pay their taxes — which they have to pay a lot of — those businesses are demanding that individuals who don’t follow the law be put out of business,” Herzberg said.

Of the more than 900 cease and desist letters sent to California businesses, Traverso said around 375 were in response to complaints his agency has received.

Herzberg sees the lack of compliance by Weedmaps as ironic, considering the Irvine company was one of the biggest financial backers of legalizing and regulating marijuana in California through Proposition 64. The company also supports regulation efforts throughout the country and overseas.

Before Prop. 64 fully kicked in Jan. 1, Herzberg said Weedmaps may have had somewhat of a leg to stand on, since there was no licensing system in place to readily distinguish between illegal shops and dispensaries that were arguably allowed under California’s medical marijuana laws. That’s akin to the argument used in the past by companies like Backpage.com when it was pressured to police prostitution rings using its website to front as escort services.

But now that all marijuana businesses in California are required to provide their state license numbers, Herzberg said the only justification for continuing to run ads without them would seem to be a financial one.

“I think that Weedmaps is being a very poor corporate citizen,” he said. “It just undermines under the system of regulation that Weedmaps was a proponent for in the first place.”

Sacramento officials also wrote a letter in early February calling for both Weedmaps and local newspaper Sacramento News & Review to stop promoting unpermitted shops in their city, the Sacramento Business Journal reported. A city official there told Marijuana Business Daily that they hadn’t heard back from the company as of Wednesday.

Ajax has said that her agency planned to give companies time to adjust to the state’s new marijuana laws before it started enforcement proceedings.

“As of right now, like with the unlicensed operators, we’re communicating with Weedmaps,” Traverso said. “There is no immediate action planned.”

In the meantime, it looks like business as usual at Weedmaps.com, with hundreds of dispensaries listed throughout the state even though our database of local policies shows they’re permitted in fewer than 20 percent of California cities.

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#1. To: All (#0)

“You are aiding and abetting in violation of state cannabis laws,” states the letter from Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.


That's rich, coming from a state aiding and abetting in violation of federal cannabis laws.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-03-28   17:11:48 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#2. To: misterwhite (#1)

That's rich, coming from a state aiding and abetting in violation of federal cannabis laws.

Maybe so, but the feds are not enforcing the law against California, but California IS enforcing its law. Hypocrisy? Sure. But hypocrisy pays!

Vicomte13  posted on  2018-03-28   21:59:57 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#3. To: Vicomte13 (#2)

Maybe so, but the feds are not enforcing the law against California,

I get the feeling that may change, don't you?

Now that may mean Trump will not get any electoral votes from California in the next election ... wait. That hasn't happened since 1992 and will likely never happen again no matter what Trump does.

Meaning the Republicans don't owe California shit. Screw them and enforce the law.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-03-29   10:27:55 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#4. To: misterwhite (#3)

I get the feeling that may change, don't you?

Now that may mean Trump will not get any electoral votes from California in the next election ... wait. That hasn't happened since 1992 and will likely never happen again no matter what Trump does.

Meaning the Republicans don't owe California shit. Screw them and enforce the law.

Marijuana is not a battlefield I'm willing to die on. I don't care what people do, so long as they don't do it in the street and disturb the horses.

I also don't care about the "honor" of the government - that it's laws not be seen to be disregarded. Whenever a cop lets a driver off with a warning that's happening anyway.

So you've got two hostile forces here: anti-pot gov't crusaders worried about the sanctity of federal law (and power), and potheads who wanna toke, and I don't care about either side.

Neither of these issues are my fight, so I won't fight for either of them. Don't care.

My energies CAN be enlisted in a fight I care about. Uniform, fair tax laws is one of the most important of those issues to me, also fair courts, police discipline, and a justly administered justice system. I care about those issues, and we need them across America.

I'm not a Republican, so screwing California to hurt Californians because they are predominantly Democrats repels me, exactly as Democrats screwing Red States because they're predominantly Republicans also repels me. I am not only not motivated by partisanship, but where I see partisanship used to damage parts of America that are of the out-or-power party, it makes me an enemy of whichever party is doing that.

I think that the power of the government to make laws governing people AT ALL, in many areas, is the problem. I think that the power of government to make law, enforce law and regulate - the power itself - needs to much more sharply limited, and that "ultimate overrides" such as the government's idea of "national security" - which are used to make an end run around all limitations - all need to be curtailed.

But this is all admittedly "off topic". I suppose that I write things like this hoping to find that I have allies here - other reasonable people who think the way I do. Pretty sure I don't have any, but I don't stop trying to find them.

Vicomte13  posted on  2018-03-29   10:56:21 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#5. To: Vicomte13 (#4)

Sheesh Vic. But do you believe in hell?

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-03-29   11:09:33 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#6. To: All (#5)

Vic do you believe in hell?

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-03-29   11:39:30 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#7. To: Vicomte13 (#6)

What about hell, do you believe in it?

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-03-29   11:44:50 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#8. To: Vicomte13 (#4)

I don't care what people do, so long as they don't do it in the street and disturb the horses.

Trump is spending billions of taxpayer dollars to fight the opioid crisis. That's certainly disturbing my horse.

That's the thing. People like you want the freedom to abuse drugs, then expect the rest of us to pick up the pieces of your miserable life. Can't have it both ways, amigo.

"so screwing California to hurt Californians because they are predominantly Democrats"

So enforcing federal law in California is screwing Californians (who broke the law)?

misterwhite  posted on  2018-03-29   11:59:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#9. To: Vicomte13 (#4)

This is the last time I ask. Do you believe in hell? So answer.

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-03-29   13:35:57 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#10. To: A K A Stone (#9)

This is the last time I ask. Do you believe in hell? So answer.

I see that you REALLY want this question answered - LOL.

Ok, here is my answer: yes, I believe in Hell, though what I believe Hel

Vicomte13  posted on  2018-03-30   9:40:01 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#11. To: A K A Stone (#9)

Your window will not take my answer. It cuts me off at a few words. Is this a glitch, or did you set it up this way so that I cannot fully answer?

Vicomte13  posted on  2018-03-30   9:40:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#12. To: Vicomte13 (#10)

Ok, here is my answer: yes, I believe in Hell

Ok. Looks like you wanted to elaborate. Do so if you are so inclined.

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-03-30   10:06:57 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#13. To: A K A Stone (#12)

Ok. Looks like you wanted to elaborate. Do so if you are so inclined.

Our religions - Protestant and Catholic - have developed quite a tradition of what "Hell" is. Our translators have contributed to the tradition by using one Anglo-Norse word: "Hell" to translate at least two different things in the Greek: Hades and Gehenna. And our traditions have extended "Hell" to include at least two more things: the Tartarus of Peter's letter, and the Lake of Fire of Revelation.

In parallel, our tradition has taken the word "Heaven", which only means "the skies" in both Hebrew and Greek, and turned it into the place where the good dead go to abide with God forever. Our tradition has equated that with the "Paradise" (Hebrew "Gan Eden" - which is to say, the Garden of Eden) of which Jesus spoke.

Further, our tradition has taken the word "spirit" and turned it into "soul", and taken "soul" and turned it to mean incorporeal spirit.

I do not believe that any of these word shifts and shifts in meanings by translators and traditions were intentional twists of meaning by evil translators. Rather, I think the long period of general illiteracy, from the fall of Rome in the late 400s AD until the rise of the printing press in Europe in the decades after 1450. Only when there was a lot of printed material TO read, and a state of settled civilization that could educate large groups of children to read, was a civilization, or a religion, based on the mass consumption of printed words (such as today's Bible). The Reformation, in which the reformers pitted their understandings of the words of the Bible against the Catholic Church's formal and informal doctrines occurred in the 1500s, and wasn't possible before the invention of the printing press. In the 1300s, 1200s, 1100s, 1000s, 900s, 800s, 700s, 600s, 500s and late 400s, there was no printing press, the only books were copied by hand, and the civilization was at a low economic level, and more and more chaotic and filled with feudal wars the further back one went. It was not a place where there were any schools to generally teach people to read. The Church - which was the Catholic Church - needed clergy who could read, so IT taught its employees (the clergy - priests, monks, nuns, brothers, sisters) how to read, but belief, faith, what Christians believed, was taught by tradition. There was always the Bible there, constantly being copied by hand, as a source to which the clergy could turn to prove their point, but the system of numbering (e.g. "Genesis 1:1") did not begin until the 1200s (originating with Cardinal Sancto Cano and followed by Archbishops Langton who, in 1205, devised the current chapter divisions. Verse numbers were first printed in 1551.

So, it wasn't even POSSIBLE, before 1551 (100 years after the Printing Press, with the Reformation well underway) to cite "chapter and verse" of the Bible as people do SINCE the Protestant Reformation. Back during that 1000 years of the Middle Ages, maybe 5 to 10% of the total population could read, they could not read the Bible like lawyers, with chapters and versers, because those things didn't exist yet. And everybody doing the reading was ALREADY a Catholic who ALREADY had learned the religion from birth through the traditions.

In short: the Christian Church in the West, which was Catholic from the time of Peter until the Reformation, transmitted its beliefs through oral teaching and word of mouth until the 1500s. THEN it started to READ the Bible, because the printing press was available, and the Reformation changed much to coincide more closely with the Bible.

But the traditions of "Heaven" and "Hell" and "Body, Soul and Spirit" that most Christians, Protestant and Catholic, believe came out of the 1500 year Catholic tradition, like the Sunday church service did, and were not part of what was challenged by the Reformation.

However, the simple dualistic do good, go to Heaven for eternity, do bad, go to Hell to burn in eternity belief of Protestants and most Catholics today is not actually what Jesus revealed.

The Christian Reformers and the Catholics mostly AGREED on the traditional belief system about Heaven and Hell, and so it was never filleted out and fought about in the same way that "Faith" versus "Works" was.

And this general agreement of people about Heaven and Hell meant that translators were comfortable translating Hades and Gehenna as Hell. THEY thought of it as the same thing, so why confuse people. "Hell" covers it, as far as the Christian Tradition, Protestant and Catholic, cared.

My problem is that, having very carefully read what Jesus is recorded to have said, our simplistic uses of "Heaven", "Hell", "soul" and "spirit", also of God, really don't jibe with what he revealed. There's more to it.

In a short sentence I could say, "Yes, I believe in Hell." But if I express myself more fully, I believe in the Gehenna and Paradise of which Jesus spoke, and the Lake of Fire, and the City of God - and these are concrete places with concrete functions. Your translators call some of these things Hell, and tradition calls some of them "Heaven". I don't use those terms because they're not accurate. I use "Gehenna" and "the lake of Fire", "the afterlife" and "post-Resurrection", and "sky", and "spirit" and "soul" are not at all synonymous, because Jesus did not use them that way.

These differences ending up mattering a great deal when speaking of eschatology, but that's not where we are in our conversation. We were at a simple litmus test, which you posed in this fashion: [I am not going to let you post here anything of any length, or much of anything anymore, until you answer my question:] Do you believe in Hell.

Short answer: Yes. But I don't believe the same things about Hell that you do.

Vicomte13  posted on  2018-03-30   11:36:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

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